WisBusiness: Tourism Conference Highlights New Song, Boosted Budget

By Greg Bump

Department of Tourism Secretary Jim Holperin says the controversy over a theme song to the department’s commercial campaign has attracted welcome publicity, but it also created a distraction. So today, a new song was unveiled at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism at the Monona Terrace Convention Center in Madison.

The first song produced to accompany ads for the state’s new tourism theme, “Wisconsin: Life’s So Good,” was pulled after it got noticed for sounding very similar to a 1995 song by the British band Supergrass. The department went back to West Allis-based composer John Tanner, who was paid $22,000 for the first song, to write a new one. Tanner did so at no charge.

Holperin said the state was looking for a song and an ad campaign that would be, “positive, colorful, upbeat and maybe a little edgy.” He said the words and images in the new ad campaign are meant to “define the state to potential visitors, but not box us in.”

The band or their management never contacted the state about the song, Holperin said, and he said the state was on solid legal ground. But, he said, the attention was drawing from the message of Wisconsin as a tourism destination, so the change was made. “The consensus in the department is most people like the new song better,” said Department of Tourism communications director Jerry Huffman.

A report released Sunday showed Wisconsin’s travel economy increased by more than $71 million last year, a 0.61 percent increase from $11.709 billion in 2003 to $11.781 billion in 2004. It was the 11th straight year there was an increase in the amount tourists are spending.

The conference also touched on Gov. Jim Doyle’s budget initiatives for the Department of Tourism. They include a $3.8 million increase in spending for marketing to augment print, radio, and television advertising, Joint Effort Marketing grants given to local communities and organizations, outreach to convention organizers, and international promotion. And, for the first time, the governor is proposing that the entire marketing budget for Tourism comes from gaming compacts with the state’s Native American tribes.

The governor’s budget also includes a Sports Marketing Bid Fee, a fund of $200,000 to be used by communities who wish to lure national-level sporting events.

The proposals are subject to legislative approval, something that Holperin is hoping comes through.

Other conference topics included sustainable tourism business seminars and workshops, including sessions on branding, sustainable markets, media relations and web design.

“The simple fact that the industry held its own is testimony to a certain strength the tour industry has,” said Jerry Huffman, communications director for the department.

Renae Dettman, director of customer and technology services for the department, said more than 1.1 million travelers were served at travel information centers across the state. But the department has also embraced new technology; the state’s tourism website, travelwisconsin.com, received over 3 million user sessions in ’04. Tourism updates are sent to 215,000 e-mail subscribers.

An estimated 1,000 people from around the state attended the convention, most of them involved in the tourism industry as business owners, local convention and visitors bureau staff, and

W. Jerome Frautschi, who contributed greatly to the creation of Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts, was given the governor’s “Putting Wisconsin on the Map Award.”